Brighton and Hove needs a rail service it can rely on, a rail service that delivers for commuters, for tourists and for business.
I don’t believe that Southern is up to the job, and I’m not alone: they are bottom of the passenger satisfaction ratings published by Transport Focus this week. That dissatisfaction stems from long before the current rail dispute, and reflects unhappiness with both the operator and the infrastructure between here and London.
It’s not enough though to complain about the service we have; people want positive solutions.
So here is my proposal. Rail South, a new body, bringing together councils and business representatives, working under the umbrella of Transport for the South East, giving commuters and businesses a democratic, accountable voice in who runs our rail service and how they perform.
Rail South would be potentially made up of representatives from Brighton and Hove, East and West Sussex County Councils and businesses, operating within the framework of the new Transport for the South East sub-national transport body, acting in a statutory role approved by the Department for Transport.
Based on the model approved by the Department for Transport in the north, it would give passengers a local democratic representative in the process of appointing a new train operator for the routes currently run by Southern GTR, on future service delivery and standards of operation.
It would link with Transport for London on services to and from both the capital and Gatwick Airport, ensuring a robust and responsive rail network.
It would also work with Network Rail and the LEP on the improvement of rail line infrastructure to London sufficient to meet the current and future needs of our city region economy.
It’s time to get our rail services back on track. It’s time for passengers, businesses and councils to have a say in who runs those services, and a way of ensuring those services meet the needs of everyone that uses them, that rely on them for their daily lives.
Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.